Jason Devore – ‘I love to make people feel something wholeheartedly, both the good and the bad’

Words: Miljan Milekić

Jason Devore is one of a kind. Best known as a frontman of the punk rock powerhouse Authority Zero, he is also an accomplished solo artist, as well as the founder and owner of the emerging new skate company Earth Skateboards. Back in June, he released his fourth solo record ‘Til The Voice Goes Out‘ via Double Helix Records (USA), in collaboration with SBÄM Records (Austria) and Caffeine Bomb Records (Japan). Jason is currently in Europe, touring with Authority Zero in celebration of their 30th anniversary as a band, but despite that, he was able to find some time and catch up with us. Check the interview below!

Jason DeVore / Photo: Jim Louvau

Hi Jason! Thank you for your time for doing this! How are you, and how are the European roads treating you?
Jason: I’m doing quite well, thank you, and hope you are also! Europe has been absolutely incredible this Summer. The energy is off the rails, the attendance at the shows has been elevated, and the whole team has been recharged and on fire this year as a collective unit. Not only that, it’s been beautiful out and about touring abroad as a whole.

A few weeks ago, you released your brand new solo album ‘’Til The Voice Goes Out.’ Now, a month after the release, how happy are you when you look back on it, and with the feedback you are getting so far?
Jason: I am incredibly pleased with the way people have embraced this new record. The feedback and love have been astronomical and my inbox has been overwhelmingly full of positive messages and touching stories of how each song has hit each individual differently. It’s been an extremely cathartic experience and I’m doing what I can daily to keep spreading the music and word of its release, so thank you for helping with that.

READ MORE: Check out our interview with skate punk pioneers JFA

On the record, you had a chance to play around with so many different styles and genres – from ska and reggae to folk and even Irish folk music. And still, despite all these different influences, the record has such a nice flow. How did you approach the cohesiveness of the record? Were you ever concerned about it, or did you have so much confidence in your songs, no matter how different from each other they might be?
Jason: I think the real trick was that I didn’t. I just simply wrote songs from the heart with no rhyme or reason to the cohesion of a collective piece and rather individualized tracks as they came to me. From there I think a great deal of what may have helped bring it all together as a unit was much in part due to the help of the creative minds and co-producers and engineers Bob Hoag and Kristen Taylor.

Bob and I specifically toward the end of the “mixing process” – which turned into much more that – got extremely creative and started, per Bob’s specific “sound,” adding in some really cool layers that trickled into each of the songs. The best way I can describe it is this – we had a delicious fruit cake concocted of a wide array of wild berries with hints of chocolate, coconut, and some divine fruit from outer space. And then, these layers I speak of, were something of the overlapping frosting glaze that was not only applied to the top but fully lathered around the entire cake making it all come together as a “Voilà” type moment.

One of the songs on the record is a tribute to one of the Canadian music icons, and not the obvious one, if I may add. Can you tell me more about it, and how did it all come together?
Jason: Ah yes. The late great Leonard Cohen and the song ‘Hallelujah.’ This song has been covered time and again, for generations, and some would say one too many times. I can understand and appreciate that as well, but with me, this song was more than just an attempt at trying to cover a very beautiful, and some may also say “ballsy,” or “difficult” song. I first heard this song not from Cohen but from – also late and great, Jeff Buckley back on tour with Authority Zero in 2001. It was late at night, I was exhausted from my first year of real touring, a touch inebriated, and in awe of Buckley’s voice and delivery. Something clicked and changed in me when I heard this song with his performance for the first time.

I instantly felt my mind open up to a new world of sonic vocal possibility and given the deep state of all that was going on at the time in my life – a sense of peace mixed with pain. I have carried that with me from that day forward with my approach to singing – self-awareness, pain, and ultimately, healing. I had always, since that moment, longed to cover that song, though I knew that if I were ever to do it, I needed to be confident in myself and my abilities as a singer and musician. I finally felt, though not near where I long to be in the growth of this journey, that I was very much at a time and place in life where it just felt right. My life has been changing on a catastrophic scale for the better; the state of the world throughout this recording and writing process was and has been in much need of light and healing itself, and this song speaks mountains to the floods and devastation at hand.

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I think that, just by existing, this song perfectly sums up the difference between your solo music and Authority Zero. Do you feel like there is less pressure and more freedom when writing your solo songs, as opposed to Zero, considering that as a band you have been around for three decades now, that you have your signature sound, and that fans have somewhat clear expectations of what they can expect from you?
Jason: I think so. A bit. Authority Zero has been running 30 years deep as of this year and with that comes a certain “sound” that people who have grown up with the group appreciate and have embraced. As much as we will continue to grow and experiment as a band, there will always be an underlying “common sound,” intentional or not, that we will always have. And I love that. To me, we have weirdly created our own version of music even though in a very familiar vein of influence.

With my solo music, the boundaries are endless. It’s hard to believe, but this is my 18th year as a solo artist, and throughout it all, it has been an unforced, honest, in-the-moment, and in-the-feel-of-it type of writing. No rhyme, no reason – simply what “feels” right at that given time. No overthinking on who will like what or in general for that matter. Just simply letting them pour out of me, be what they will, and be as honest as possible. I think that shows in this new record.

On the other hand, releasing a record under your own name puts all the spotlight on you and you only. Do you feel any kind of pressure because of that? Do you ever feel like you are under the microscope, or are you, after thirty years on the scene, at the point where you just don’t care about all that?
Jason: Of course! I care and I don’t care. I care in that, due to the microscope being more honed in on me as an individual, I want to strive to make it my very best work at that given moment for, those who have been a part of this musical journey, and those to come. It makes me really want to pay attention to detail, what can make these songs and performances better, and if this were the last thing I were to ever record, then knowing I did it to the height of my abilities.

As far as the don’t care side, I don’t really pay any attention to the criticism anymore, though if I do time and again, it’s in a healthy way. I wasted an excessive amount of energy on caring about what people thought, both as fans and within the scene, in our earlier years as a band. We all have that longing for acceptance within us, especially in our youth, and we can be broken down when people trash-talk or shun us for what we feel so purely deep about. Nowadays, and in the kindest way possible, I say fuck ‘em! If it’s not for you then it’s not, and I respect that, but I certainly don’t let it ruin my day. I’d rather embrace it and let it fuel me to do it more and even more amplified. I’m very much that kid that if you tell him not to do something, that was the first mistake because all it’s done is throw gasoline on my fire and make me want to do it to the next level of extremity.

READ MORE: Check our interview with The Flatliners frontman Chris Cresswell about his new solo record ‘The Stubbornness of the Young’

I would like to touch on your songwriting and especially your lyrics on this record a little bit more. Some of them seem like they come from dark places, and they seem deeply personal. What does it mean to you to be able to tap into moments like that, and to be able to let it bleed out in the form of music and lyrics? On the other side, how hard is it to put it all out, and expose yourself to everyone to see?
It’s extremely liberating. A lot of time with songwriting, it’s difficult to be real with yourself in fear of being judged or freaking people out. But again, I embrace that. A funny thing that may bring it more to light is that I’ve been singing about these same dark things or trying moments throughout my life in the Authority Zero songs. The difference with the approach to those is that I’ve always, toward the end of the song, worked through those difficult thoughts and issues, and brought myself to a place where I needed to keep reminding myself that there is light at the end of each tunnel.

That gave each song a new meaning and the refunded direction of hope and prosperity that things will in fact be alright. If you keep working to better yourself, your current crippling situation, whatever it may be, then things will be okay. Many of the solo songs have a more blunt matter of fact to them, and the acceptance of “well, that’s just how it is and how I feel at the moment, or this past year.” It’s straight up, and rather than shun it, I’m admitting it, dealing with it, and embracing it. That, as dark as it may sound, becomes the light at the end of the tunnel in each of these pure and to-the-root-of-it songs.

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Both, in the past and recently, you made it very clear that this is not a side project, by any means, but something you’re taking seriously. However, it seems like you’re not taking it too seriously either, as you’re still finding ways to have fun with it – videos, photos, and music itself. How much of a conscious decision that was, and how much is it just you being who you are?
Jason: In the end, when I step back and look at it all as a collective entity and piece, it’s really just me being who I am. I’m like Shrek – an Ogre if you will. And, as Shrek says in the movie – Ogres are like onions, they have layers. Layers you keep on peeling back and find something different within each. I’m a very deeply passionate and compassionate person almost to the point of self-toxifying at times, but also a complete self-proclaimed comedian and ham. (laughs) Always have been, and appears that always will be, well into my later years. I love to make people feel something wholeheartedly, both the good and the bad, and all at the same time – not take themselves or life too seriously.

It’s a bit of a double entendre. I remember vividly when approached by my amazing label Double Helix Records they asked me how I wanted to be perceived as a solo musician. The answer I gave them initially was – “I think I’d like this to be seen as a serious musician” type of thing. I have since apologized and had a laugh with them over it because that’s just not me to my core. I like being outrageous, I naturally turn to comedy – whether as a defense mechanism or not, and I like to be free of any chains, or of being put into a box. Ultimately, I love entertaining and keeping things interesting and not boring. That’s just my nature, and again, I’ve come to embrace that. I feel if every artist did that they could totally feel their full expression of self to the world.

Jason DeVore / Photo: Jim Louvau

Since I mentioned videos – you have released two so far, and both are very elaborate, and fun. Can you share a bit more about the ideas and stories behind them, and can we expect more of the same in the future?
Jason: Thank you for that! Yeah, we are set to film for my third single ‘Count Me In,’ come the first of October when I return home from touring all Summer. I’ll be filming again with Eric Cannon of Illmatic Productions and I can’t wait to get creative with him again!

For this record, you went with a proven team of Bob Hoag as a producer and Double Helix, who seem to be taking their place as one of the best underground labels in the US at the moment. At the same time, it seems like you really elevated your game on this record in terms of production, sound, and the way you presented yourself and your new music. How did your approach change with them on board, and how big of a part they were in taking things to the next level?
 Astronomically. For the record as well, I went into this whole recording process working with and collaborating with my friend Kristen Taylor over at Underground Studios in Mesa, Arizona. She’s amazing and we had so much fun working in the studio, bouncing ideas off one another and trying new things. That really set the tone of this record and the direction in which it was heading.

From there it only elevated in every respect, be it sonically and on a productivity level. Once Double Helix jumped on board, the whole universe opened up along with the floodgates of possibility. When moving all the tracks from Underdog over to Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Studios for mixing, as mentioned before, everything just continued to flourish into something I didn’t initially see it being. We went from mixing to then re-writing and re-recording and transforming parts. It was just inspiring and a real electric process. The work we did together, I feel truly speaks for itself as a humble collective of songs. That was the turning point where the valley became mountains, and the journey to the Moon turned to the stars.

Double Helix gave me the free reign and ability to dive even deeper into the creativity of this record to the ring of their words – “We want you to make this the record you’ve always wanted to make. Whatever that is, and whatever that takes, that’s what we want for you.” Enter mind blown and kid in a candy store. Most people talk a pretty good talk when trying to “sign you,” but not that many, if any, actually deliver and stand by their word and pose in their work ethic and ideology of what they say they want to be and stand for. Double Helix is one of those that does and has and I am eternally grateful.

READ MORE: Read our interview with Emily Whitehurst aka Survival Guide

As we are doing this, you are in Europe, on Zero’s 30th-anniversary tour – congrats on that! Just before that, we got the chance to catch the same tour in Western Canada, and before you know it you will be back, but on the East side of the country. With such a hectic schedule, do you think you will be bringing your solo music on the road anytime soon, and can we expect you up north? We’ll even take you to the Saskatoon Skate Museum!
Jason: Thank you very much! It has undeniably been one hell of a ride. My hope is very much that with the busy band touring schedule, I will be able to utilize any alternative time to hit the road in support of my new record. I really want to see it reach as many people as humanly possible along with my whole collection of solo music. I’ve already been in talks with Steve Rawles (Belvedere) – our Autority Zero booking agent, and we’ve started discussions on possibilities of Canadian, as well as European solo touring. So keep your eyes out and keep spreading the musical word!

And speaking of skateboarding – how are the things at Earth? I absolutely love everything Eli and Jeromy are putting out, and it seems the fest was super fun!
Things at Earth have never been better! Our team/family is growing daily, our amazing riders are breaking new barriers quite literally daily with their skill, pushing new tricks and themselves to the limits, and our annual Earth Fest has been gaining tracking year by year. Jeromy and Eli are two of the absolute best out there right now, and are so stylistically unique in each of their individual styles, that it’s been such a pleasure watching them grow. A year back we also had the very talented Pontus Björn of Sweden join our team abroad in Europe and he has been absolutely slaying it. On top of that, we have our old schooler Tojo who’s been shredding away so we are super stoked. The future of Earth is looking bright!

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*Interview edited for length and clarity

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